What to do with windshield impacts - assess, document and repair
Imagine driving on a highway and something suddenly hits your windshield causing it to break or shatter.
We’ve come across it on social media at one point or another, heard about it from a friend, or perhaps were warned about it before a long drive. Shattered windshields are becoming an alarmingly common occurrence these days. Whether it’s caused by children throwing rocks at passing vehicles or simply debris, knowing what to do if it happens to you can be a lifesaving matter.
I never thought it would happen to me, yet one Thursday morning, on a long drive out of town, it did. Driving northbound on the Tarlac – Pangasinan – La Union Expressway (TPLEX), I was overtaking a truck. The van ahead of me had already passed it and was moving back to the outer lane. As it did so, the fuel tank flap had somehow come loose, dislodged itself, and bounced on the road before slamming into my windshield. It all happened within just a second, and having a large truck on my right at the time and the concrete median to the left, there was nothing I could do to avoid it.
The result was a shattered windshield, with spiderweb cracks stretching out from the point of impact, thankfully still held in place by the window film I had installed. An onboard dashcam I had fitted had also recorded the entire incident, allowing me to figure out exactly how it happened and serve as documentation as well. Unfortunately, the offending vehicle was oblivious to what happened and simply continued on its journey. Thankfully, no one was injured, and with such critical damage to the vehicle, we cautiously pulled over to the side.
Incidents like these can easily ruin your day, but with a few precautions and a level head, there are certain measures you can take to minimize the damage and hassle the incident may cause.
These kinds of incidents are fairly hard to predict. Nonetheless, there are certain measures you can take to make the documentation, repair and filing process easier.
1. Equip a dashcam
Dashboard mounted cameras have been steadily rising in popularity, as there’s no better way of documenting accidents than an eye that is always watching. You needn’t purchase an expensive model. Just a simple one with a wide view of the road ahead and good low light visibility will do. As for the storage card, you needn’t have that much space either. A simple 8GB card will do fine.
The most important part is setting it up to run on its own. Many dashboard cameras can be set to turn on when the vehicle turns on and record over old footage as the card fills up. You can also keep it muted, lest you want the traffic cops to hear your entire onboard conversation. Be sure that it’s mounted in such a way that it can see the much of the road ahead. If done right, you can drive as normal with little or no adjustment from the day you’ve installed it.
2. Install window film
Most windshields are very sturdily constructed, making use of multiple layers of glass and plastic to form a really strong surface. They can withstand quite a lot of impact, but of course, aren’t invincible. If you want extra protection, it’s prudent to install a layer of window film. This helps hold the shards in place after impact and can prevent some of them from flying into the passengers should an incident like this happen.
The film is available in a variety of shades. There’s also clear film for those that want the protection but don’t want to compromise their visibility at night.
3. Drive with Sunglasses
When driving in the daytime, sunglasses can provide vital protection for your eyes besides from the sun’s rays. Habitually wearing these may just keep your eyes safe during the rare instance that a foreign object shatters your windshield. It will keep little shards of glass from entering your eyes and allow you to drive your car to a safe location.
4. Keep a pen and paper handy
You’ll never know when you might need to write down certain details, so having a pen and paper in the car can pay off in spades. Just a regular ballpoint pen and a small notebook will do. Keep it stored in the glove box or the center storage.
5. Always have a flashlight ready
Finally, for incidents that happen at night, a flashlight will be an invaluable asset. Sure most mobile phones have one, though you might want to make better use of that battery to call for help, a towing service, or informing loved ones of your plight. Having a separate flashlight will also allow you to check your vehicle, while making calls.
6. Keep your insurance payments up to date
This may seem trivial, yet many insurance companies may refuse to cover any damages if payments are late or not collected. Making sure you’ve paid your premiums will help expedite the claiming process and any red tape with the insurer.
When it happens
There’s little that can prepare you for when it actually happens. The most important thing to do is to try and keep a level head. Be wary of your surroundings and find the most prudent course of action.
1. Upon impact
If you’re driving and suddenly find yourself with a shattered windshield, don’t panic. Apply the brakes gently to slow down the car. Do not stand on the brakes as this may cause a pile-up with the cars behind you. Check your mirrors to see if there are vehicles to either side. If it is clear, slowly make your way to the side of the road. If you can’t see ahead, roll down your window and peer out the side. If there are no vehicles to your right, turn on your indicator and slowly make your way to the side. Avoid stopping your vehicle in the inner lane as this is the overtaking lane and will leave you vulnerable to fast moving vehicles. Don’t turn on your hazard lights just yet, as it will be difficult to communicate your intentions to drivers beside and behind you. Instead, keep your right indicator on.
Find a safe place to park, away from the road. If you’re on the highway, be on the lookout for nearby Lay-bys, as these were designed for incidents such as this. Once pulled over at the side of the road, ensure your vehicle is completely off the road. Now you may turn on your hazard lights and alight from the vehicle.
2. Once stopped
Once you’ve found a place to safely park, use this time to first check on your passengers. Make sure each one is ok and be on the lookout for little glass shards on your skin. Wipe these off outside of your vehicle. Some highways have also equipped their Lay-Bys with telephones or sign boards with contact numbers for emergency services. These will be vital if any passengers are injured.
3. Assess your situation
Once everyone has been taken care of and help has been called, use this time to finally assess the damage of the vehicle. Start by having a closer look at the windshield and find out if the vehicle is still drivable. Check other parts of the car for signs of damage. Look around your area for kilometer markers, whether they are on the median wall or on concrete posts by the shoulder. These will help determine where on the highway you are and will help rescuers or towing services find you more easily.
4. Document everything
With your mobile phone or a camera, take pictures of the incident. First, take photos of the damage to your vehicle. Second, take photos of the vehicle with the surrounding area in view. Take photos of nearby kilometer markers or sign boards. These will help authorities establish where you are when filing their report. You may also call the tollway operators and have them send a patrol vehicle. They may provide an incident report which will be handy for insurance purposes later on.
After the accident
Finally, with much of the emergency services and paperwork done, it’s time to figure out what to do and how to get home. In some cases, the glass may be shattered completely, making it difficult to drive, visibility-wise, and a high risk of shards raining on the driver. If this is the case, have the car towed home or to a service center. If the damage is relatively minor, it may be possible to drive home, but try to tape up the damaged area with clear tape to prevent glass shards from falling out. Drive slow and avoid potholes as impacts can make the cracks larger and cause further damage.
Make the calls
Use this time to call your insurer and possibly, your auto service center. Your insurance paperwork will likely have a card or contact info on the form itself, if not on a handy emergency card. Inform them what happened. Some policies even provide free towing. Doing so lets them know you will file a claim soon and will expedite the process once you’ve completed the documents. Take note of the name and number of your claims officer. Be wary that your preferred auto service center may not be recognized by your insurer, so find out from them first where they recommend to have your car repaired.
Filing the paperwork
Once at home, collect the necessary documents. These incidents usually require an incident report from traffic police or the tollway operator, a photocopy of the vehicle’s OR and CR, and a photocopy of your valid driver’s license with official receipt. Also fill up the incident form attached to your insurance paperwork, if there is. It may help to provide a sketch of the incident as well. As for documentation photos, it will be prudent to print them out as well as provide a soft copy in a thumb drive or CD. With these in hand, and the necessary paperwork, the claims and repair process will hopefully be speedy and efficient, allowing you to get back on the road soon.
Following these steps, closely coordinating with my insurance and auto service center, and thankfully, with a windshield in stock, my vehicle was repaired and ready to go in a matter of just two working days. Incidents like these may be traumatic and stressful, but with a level head, the right documentation, and a good relationship with your insurance and auto service center, it can be fairly easy to deal with.